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Research highlights culture’s role in revitalising high streets

Words: Huw Morris

Cultural organisations will have a vital role in reanimating high streets and local economies as the country emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to two studies.

The studies, both unveiled by Arts Council England, argue that culture can breathe new life into town centres, encourage local economic growth and job opportunities, while generating footfall in areas where it has dropped because of the pandemic.

The first, which analysed Ordnance Survey high street data, reveals 75 per cent of buildings used by Arts Council England-funded organisations are either on or within a five minute walk of a high street.

More than 300 cultural venues and buildings are also located in unemployment hotspots. Cultural venues provide additional amenities for the public, with nearly a quarter including a café, bar, bookshop, or a combination of all three. A second study highlights arts and culture’s role in supporting community cohesion, providing jobs, creating events which increase visitors numbers, while helping to repurpose empty buildings or to fill the gap left by retailers as they move away from high streets.

In Ipswich, cultural organisations put on more than 5,000 performances, attracted more than one million attendances, supported more than 250 jobs and generated more than £25 million for the local economy.

“An investment in culture is an investment in our high streets,” said Arts Council England chief executive Darren Henley. “Theatres, music venues, museums and libraries are the beating hearts of their communities. “They’re central to the social fabric and civic pride of towns across England. As well as events and performances for audiences of all ages, they provide a raft of local amenities from bars to bookshops, helping to bring our high streets alive, providing jobs and boosting the economy.”

Both reports are available here

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